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Synthetic A Priori Knowledge And Judgment Philosophy Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Philosophy
Wordcount: 1296 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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It is common knowledge that we all make judgments. Judgments about people we meet, what we or others should look like, or even judgments about world affairs and nature. Yet what knowledge do we have instilled in us or how is knowledge presented to us that allow us to make the judgments we make. With that in mind, the followed text is comparing analytic and synthetic judgments while holding emphasis on synthetic a priori knowledge as reflected in Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. I will then take these ideas a step further by comparing Kant’s ideas and arguments against Hume’s as it was he who “interrupted his dogmatic slumbers and gave his investigations in the field of speculative philosophy a quite new direction.” (Critique of Pure Reason)

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To begin, Kant had a few issues with the way previous philosophers used the term analytic and synthetic judgment. Based on their use of the terms, he can to the conclusion that they failed to differentiate between the judgments in a way that justifies their use. As defined by Wikipedia, “An analytic judgment is a proposition whose predicate concept is contained in its subject concept.” While a synthetic judgment, “is a proposition whose predicate concept is not contained in its subject concept.” While these two definitions of the judgments have been used in philosophy in many different ways to justify many philosophical arguments or ideas, Kant believed the two judgments were not coextensive so he gave four other logical combinations that he felt should be examined while defining analytic and synthetic judgments.

“Analytic a posteriori judgments cannot arise, since there is never any need to appeal to experience in support of a purely explicative assertion.

Synthetic a posteriori judgments are the relatively uncontroversial matters of fact that we come to know by means of our sensory experience (though Wolff had tried to derive even these from the principle of contradiction).

Analytic a priori judgments, everyone agrees, include all merely logical truths and straightforward matters of definition; they are necessarily true.

Synthetic a priori judgments are the crucial case, since only they could provide new information that is necessarily true. But neither Leibniz nor Hume considered the possibility of any such case” (Kemerling 2).

With the definitions and formulations of the judgments aside, Kant believed that it was possible to synthetic a priori judgments because these types of judgments are what most of human knowledge is based from. With Hume in mind, Kant generally believed that Hume’s view on arithmetic and geometry could be used as the building blocks for natural science. Once the foundations for natural science have been laid, you can then use that information to explain certain events or predict what the future holds in respect to natural science. Hume derived this line of thinking from two different explanations. He believed that ideas come from impressions and relations of ideas which can be shown through mathematics. These impressions and relations of ideas then lay the ground work or foundation for the natural sciences.

With the foundation of natural sciences being formed through impressions and relation of ideas, Hume also believed cause and effect played a role, but that experience can never be a source of any of the ideas for natural science. The reason for this is that experience is the clear example of the constant conjunction between cause and effect and it is above all clear that we cannot have knowledge without cause and effect. Thus, cause and effect gives us our impressions and relations of ideas which help form knowledge. The negative portion of Hume’s analysis-his demonstration that matters of fact rest upon an unjustifiable belief that there is a necessary connection between the causes and their effects-was entirely correct.” (Kemerling 2) Hume’s rationality of cause and effect forces his conclusion that induction has no logical force. That causes have explanations behind them that could be traced back to natural reasons and are above all determined by nature.

“Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason shows how reason determines the conditions under which experience and knowledge are based.” (Kemerling 1) This means that if I want to buy a car, I must have money and knowledge of what it will cost to buy a car. Without money, I cannot buy a new car or without the knowledge of where to buy a car, I would not know of a car to buy. This is where we take our experience and knowledge and combine them to give us cause and effect as above. When we have concepts of understanding, those ideas will provide us with the ability to connect knowledge together to create a synthetic a priori judgment.

Kant believes that all of our knowledge stems from experience, but that our knowledge does not have to stem out of the experience. In other words a priori knowledge is independent of our experiences and senses. With that said, Kant believed that philosophy must stand in the need of a science that will determine the extent of all of it. “Mathematics is an example of how far, independently of experience, we can progress in a priori knowledge.” (Kemerling 3) So in conclusion, natural science contains a priori synthetic judgments and metaphysics contains a priori synthetic knowledge.

Kant believes that pure reason is, “That which contains the principles whereby we know anything absolutely a priori.” (Critique of Pure Reason) It’s like adding and subtracting which brings about a priori answers, once we do that our judgments and concepts stem from an a priori origin.

“For the analysis, that is, mere dissection of concepts, contained in this or that,

is not the aim of, but only a preparation for metaphysics proper, which has its

object the extension, by means of synthesis of prior knowledge. For Hume’s

analysis by Kant he stated that all things ultimately exist in space, a priori,

before we can sense. The priori of an object is their concept of it. It is more

than showing these concepts, but containing a knowledge of their concepts

and how it can be arrived as a synthesis, of a priori knowledge.” (Jones 2)

Overall, both Hume and Kant came to agree that all theoretical sciences of reason have synthetic a priori judgments and are followed in these principles;

All knowledge begins with an experience.

A priori knowledge is independent of experiences.

If we understand and adapt to these principles of synthetic a priori judgment, we may begin to understand everything within a better light especially cause and effect.

In respect to both Hume and Kant, I must say I agree with their definitive choices for use of the judgments. While pushing aside analytic judgments, both Kant and Hume make strong arguments for why synthetic a priori judgments are not only the foundation for natural science, but also for the definitive source of almost all human knowledge. I agree with Kant in saying that we can have an idea or impression of something which knowledge can be stemmed from, but I genuinely don’t believe we can know something without having experience of it. You can have an idea of something, but not knowledge of something and those two ideals are drastically different in my mind.

Overall, Kant does a great job at conforming and revamping Hume’s ideas on synthetic a priori judgment and without synthetic a priori knowledge, we would defiantly be lacking much knowledge in the human culture.


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